XXXHolic: Hitsuzen

Contract

The rest of the school day was pretty uneventful. Time seemed to fly, and soon the dismissal bell was ringing. Since they were headed in the same direction, Suzume walked home with Watanuki part of the way, and rode her bike the rest of the way home when they parted so he could head over to Yuuko's shop to work. For the first time in what felt like a long while, Suzume felt at peace. She was healthy, happy, and she had made some new friends.

But it wouldn't last.

Suzume was just finishing up her homework, when the phone rang.

"Hello?" Suzume said as answered it.

[Ah, Suzume-chan.] It was Ueda-san, her grandmother's lawyer. Ever since her death, he had made it his business to check in on her periodically to see how she was doing. [I'm sorry to bother you, but I'm afraid I have some rather unfortunate news…]

Suzume's eyes widened slightly when she heard what it was.

—¡–!–¡–!–¡—

Yuuko took a sip of her green tea and let out a blissful sigh of contentment. Once in a while, this, rather than sake, was good too.

"Ah, so peaceful~" She said wistfully, staring up into the blue sky.

"Maybe for you!" Watanuki remarked tartly as he set down yet another box of her junk to air out. Today his part-time work included cleaning out her storehouse (which she liked to refer to as her 'treasure room'), the contents of which ended up filling the whole yard. "Just how much stuff did you have in there!?" He asked incredulously. How did she even get all of this to fit in there!?

"How much? Quite a lot! Hehn~" Yuuko replied with a sparkling grin and a laugh.

"Don't give me your 'hehn'!" Watanuki bristled as a vein throbbed on his forehead. "You've stuffed and crammed in there as much as you can stuff and cram! So a simple airing out of the room becomes a major project! You've got pottery piled on top of pottery. I don't believe it! You could have at least wrapped it in paper to protect it! And you're supposed to wrap kimonos in kimono wrapping paper!" He scolded her, flitting from one problem area to another. "And what's this supposed to be!?" He demanded, grabbing a soft and round black thing that was sitting between two boxes. "Eyaaah!" Watanuki yelled, startled, when Mokona suddenly sat up in his hand and popped open its eyes.

~BOINNG~!

"This is Mokona!!" Mokona said proudly, jumping up and bouncing off of Watanuki's head.

"Don't mess things up while you play!" Watanuki snapped.

"Watanuki really is a hard worker." Yuuko commented, amused by the scene he was making. For all his complaints, he sure was doing his work diligently!

"Wow, Watanuki-kun's just like a housewife." A familiar voice remarked, causing him to stop short and whip his head around. Sure enough, it was Suzume, and she was standing just inside the fence surrounding the shop.

"Hello again." She greeted everyone with a smile. After that troubling phone call, she had decided to talk a walk, and just as she was thinking she'd like to talk to one of her new friends, she happened to hear Watanuki's voice coming from over the fence… which struck her as a little odd, since she never remembered seeing anything here before.

"S-Suzume-chan! What are you doing here!?" Watanuki exclaimed. Did she get sucked in too!?

"Hm? Was it wrong of me to let myself in?" Suzume asked, tilting her head slightly in confusion. The gate was completely open…

"It's fine. Suzume-chan is welcome anytime." Yuuko said with a smile.

"Thank you." Suzume said, giving them another smile, as she ventured further in to join them. "That sure is a lot stuff you have there… are you cleaning out your storehouse?"

"This is all from my treasure room~!" Yuuko replied with a grin and gleam in her eye.

"The treasure room~!" Mokona echoed cheerfully, hopping up and down.

"Oh, that sounds interesting!" Suzume remarked. "Would you like some help?"

"Suzume-chan~!" Watanuki said with a sparkling aura and appreciative smile, deeply touched. Finally, someone who actually wanted to help!

"How nice of you to offer! But it's all right, Suzume-chan. Watanuki can manage on his own. We don't want to spoil him too much." Yuuko answered, causing him to face-fault.

"Since when have you ever 'spoiled' me!?" He demanded incredulously. She's been a making him slave away since day one!

"Ara, but this is part of your work, isn't it?" Yuuko reminded him. "If you let someone else do the work for you, it'll take you that much longer to pay for your wish."

"Geh!" Watanuki flinched at the reminder.

"Oh, so that's how it is…" Suzume said thoughtfully. "By the way, who are those two over there?" She asked curiously, pointing to the twins, who were currently beating the crap out of a pretty rug that had been hung up on a line.

"Yay~! Yay~!" The two girl's cheered as they continuously beat it with the magical staff Yuko had received as payment from one of the members of Syaoran's group and the red bat.

"Oh, those girls are Maru and Moro—Hey!" Watanuki shouted, startled, when he saw how rough they were being. "Hit that too hard, and you'll damage it, so do it gently." He told them, sweat-dropping. The girls were both so absorbed in what they were doing, that they didn't seem to hear him at all.

FLUTTER.

"Huh?" He said in disbelief when one of the butterflies in the pattern moved, rubbing his eyes. Suzume blinked.

"Watanuki-kun… is it just me, or is that butterfly moving…?" She asked tentatively, hoping she wasn't hallucinating.

"Ah, you can see it, too! Thank goodness." Watanuki said with sigh of relief. For a moment, he thought he was seeing things. "Wait, that means the butterflies really are moving!!" He yelled, pointing dramatically at the abnormal rug.

"They don't like being hit." Yuuko stated matter-of-factly.

"I see." Suzume said as they continued to stare the unusual rug. That made sense, in its own way.

"You shouldn't accept everything she says so easily, Suzume-chan. I mean, normally patterns on carpets don't move, right?" Watanuki said, sweat-dropping, as he waved his hand.

"But this isn't exactly a 'normal' shop, is it?" Suzume pointed out. "Besides, it's pretty cool once you get used to it. Don't you think owning something like that fits Yuuko-san's style?"

"Suzume-chan catches on fast." Yuuko said with a sly smile, taking it as a compliment. "Actually, it was my payment for a job a once did. But several of the butterflies in the pattern have managed to escape. If any more get away, the rest of the pattern will get lonely!"

"Are you saying that everything laid out here is like that!?" Watanuki asked, flinching in shock.

"I told you before… the treasure room is a mountain of treasure! Remember?" Yuuko said with the hint of a smirk as she glanced back at him.

'Ah. One escaped…!' Suzume thought, surprised when one of the butterfly patterns actually flew out of the rug and turned into a real one. Her eyes sparkled slightly as she watched it flutter through the air. The transformation was miraculous. '… So pretty.'

"If that's the case, then you should take better care of it!" Watanuki snapped, too busy playing the tsukkomi to notice. "I know there are messy people, but this is ridiculous!"

"Every now and then, I do some work on it." Yuuko replied nonchalantly.

"Since when!?"

"What does that mean?" Yuuko asked, frowning as she furrowed her brow at hit. Watanuki looked away. It felt a little too dangerous to answer this time… He noticed Maru and Moro had finally stopped beating the rug and were introducing themselves to Suzume, who was smiling at their cuteness and looking like she was trying hard not to hug them. There was a blue butterfly perched on her bun. "The things here… are in their 'resting place', awaiting the time when they will be given over to those who require them." Yuuko explained, picking up a clamshell that had a butterfly painted on the inside. "An affinity? That sounds like what happens between people." Watanuki said.

"It's the same." Yuuko replied. "Those with an affinity get along well. But the opposite can…"

"Excuse me." A young woman called out from the gate, getting everyone's attention. "I'm studying folklore at my university. I love antiques, and I'm always making rounds through the curio shops and other collectors." She stepped further into the yard. "I was doing just that when I happened by your yard and fell in love with all the things you have laid out here. I guess I barged in huh?" She said with a smile. The butterfly on Suzume's head fluttered its wings and took off.

"I don't mind." Yuuko said, though she didn't look nearly as happy to see this woman as she had when Suzume arrived. "One could say that your coming here… is hitsuzen. So… What in particular drew you in?"

"This!" The young woman said, making a beeline for a small, cylindrical silver tube, picking it up without hesitation.

'Hm? I didn't even notice that was there at all…' Suzume thought with a small frown. But now that she had… She got the feeling that it was something she wouldn't want to pick up.

'I don't remember that.' Watanuki thought, furrowing his brow slightly in confusion.

"I don't recognize it, but it's captivating!" The young woman said brightly. "What is it?"

"What do you think it is?" Yuuko asked.

"A kaleidoscope?" The young woman guessed. "No, that's not it. I'd sure like to see what's inside." She gave it shake.

KATTA. KATTA.

"It's rattling. There's something in there." She said thoughtfully.

"Yes." Yuuko stated with a grim expression on her face.

"Do you think we could work out a way for me to have it?" The young woman asked.

"I wouldn't recommend it to you." Yuuko told her.

"Are you saying it's too expensive for me?"

"No."

"But… if I said I wanted it no matter the price…?"

"Make me a promise." Yuuko said seriously. "If you take it… you must promise to never open it."

"… Is that really all right, Yuuko-san?" Suzume asked as they watched the woman leave with the silver tube. The expression on Yuuko's face as they were negotiating had her concerned. "That thing didn't seem very 'friendly'."

"Eh?" Watanuki said, surprised. He found it strange that he hadn't noticed it before, but what did she mean by that?

"You have good intuition, Suzume-chan." Yuuko said calmly. "You can trust it. You don't need to explain or justify your feelings to anyone, just trust your own inner guidance. It knows best."

"Mn." Suzume said, nodding. "Thank you, Yuuko-san." She noticed that the sun was beginning to set. "It's getting late, so I think I'll head home." She said, excusing herself with a polite bow. "I'll bring some snacks with me tomorrow."

"Looking forward to it." Yuko said with the hint of a smirk. Suzume-chan's sweets were something special.

"See you at school, Watanuki-kun!" Suzume added with a smile and wave as she left.

"Yeah, see you tomorrow." Watanuki said with a smile, though he wondered why she suddenly decided to leave.

"Suzume-chan just wanted someone to talk to." Yuuko said, as if reading his mind. "She has an important decision to make."

"An important decision?" Watanuki asked. "Is someone troubling her again?" He asked furrowing his brow with concern.

"No. This time, the one troubling Suzume-chan… is herself." She replied mysteriously. But she wasn't too worried about Suzume. No, it that other young woman was the one who was in the most danger, because unlike Suzume-chan, that woman didn't know when to stop…

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.